How United and City match up

. . . as Manch­ester derby beck­ons

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

LONDON — All der­bies are ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated, of course, that is the whole point of the ex­er­cise. But Manch­ester is where it is all hap­pen­ing in English foot­ball at the moment. In terms of the per­son­al­i­ties and pedi­gree of the two man­agers, the stag­ger­ing amounts of money spent in the trans­fer win­dow and the im­pec­ca­ble starts United and City have made to the new sea­son, it is clear things have moved up sev­eral notches since the mem­o­rable Old Traf­ford meet­ing five years ago and a re­sult the BBC sug­gested would send shock waves through the Premier League.

That was City’s 6-1 win against Sir Alex Fer­gu­son’s reign­ing cham­pi­ons, United’s worst home de­feat for more than half a cen­tury, and rec­ol­lec­tions are still vivid of a flab­ber­gasted Fergie blam­ing his play­ers for chas­ing the game and con­ced­ing more goals rather than switch­ing into dam­age lim­i­ta­tion mode once Jonny Evans had been sent off and their op­po­nents were be­yond catch­ing.

That is not how Fer­gu­son or his United would like to be re­mem­bered and, in fair­ness, they do not de­serve to be, but these things can hap­pen in der­bies.

José Mour­inho’s United may have the edge in goal but they are evenly matched with City in all other de­part­ments, though Pep Guardi­ola will be un­able to play the suspended Ser­gio Agüero.

GOALKEEPERS United are clearly ahead in this de­part­ment, hav­ing man­aged to re­tain the ser­vices of ar­guably the most re­li­able goal­keeper in the coun­try. Although this time last year the club were re­signed to los­ing David de Gea to Real Madrid, the trans­fer never hap­pened and De Gea ap­pears re­laxed about his new man­ager and ready for an­other derby.

Hav­ing been firm in show­ing Joe Hart the door, Pep Guardi­ola now faces a fol­lowup de­ci­sion. He can­not re­ally con­tinue with Willy Ca­ballero, as that would in­di­cate a lack of con­fi­dence in his £17m buy Clau­dio Bravo. The Chilean is there­fore lined up to make his de­but in the Manch­ester derby, which is bold but not ideal.

DE­FENCE Eric Bailly and Da­ley Blind have been get­ting the nod so far, de­spite José Mour­inho’s sup­posed mis­giv­ings over the lat­ter as a cen­tral de­fender, and with United un­beaten Chris Smalling is find­ing it hard to win back his place. Luke Shaw is a cer­tain starter at left-back as long as he re­turns from Eng­land duty with­out mishap, though the right-back po­si­tion is a lit­tle more com­pli­cated. An­to­nio Va­len­cia has been play­ing well enough to hold on to a place, though he only re­turns from Ecuador duty the day be­fore the game. Mour­inho is likely to have doubts about that, so there may be an op­por­tu­nity for Tim Fosu-Men­sah or Phil Jones.

City are in a some­what sim­i­lar po­si­tion to their ri­vals, with sum­mer sign­ing John Stones is al­ready the king­pin of City’s cen­tral de­fence but doubts sur­round­ing his sup­port­ing cast. Vin­cent Kom­pany is on his way back to fit­ness but un­likely to be risked, leav­ing a choice be­tween Ni­colás Ota­mendi and Alek­san­dar Ko­larov. The lat­ter, nor­mally a left­back, has been quite im­pres­sive as emer­gency centre-half, which is just as well con­sid­er­ing City have just sent a cou­ple of real cen­tre­halves out on loan. Ota­mendi has not al­ways con­vinced, ei­ther, but if he plays in the mid­dle Ko­larov or Gaël Clichy will be left-back, with Bacary Sagna per­haps favourite in­stead of Pablo Za­baleta on the right.

MID­FIELD Paul Pogba has been wait­ing some time for his first Manch­ester derby and this will be his big day, even if re­ports that Barcelona passed up the chance to sign him in the sum­mer are true. United sup­port­ers are ex­pect­ing great things from their £90m sign­ing and, given the price tag, the France mid­fielder is bound to com­mand most at­ten­tion in this early-sea­son derby. It might seem odd that such a Rolls Royce of a player could find him­self along­side the Mad Max ve­hi­cle that is Marouane Fel­laini, but the way United have been play­ing the pos­si­bil­ity ex­ists. Other op­tions in­clude Michael Carrick, An­der Her­rera and Mor­gan Sch­nei­der­lin, the last pre­vented from join­ing Spurs in the sum­mer by Mour­inho’s in­ter­ven­tion.

Guardi­ola has changed City’s shape and in do­ing so dis­pensed with the some­what cau­tious three-man mid­field, with two of them de­fen­sive, that Manuel Pellegrini favoured. The Chilean nor­mally used at least two de­fen­sive mid­field­ers in a line of three, which tended to hold City back. Nowa­days City are

now mov­ing to­wards a more ad­ven­tur­ous 4-14-1 sys­tem, at least un­til Ilkay Gün­do­gan joins the party, with Fer­nand­inho do­ing the de­fen­sive screen­ing and wide play­ers Ra­heem Ster­ling and Nolito asked to track back when nec­es­sary. Not only does that make City are a much more at­tack­ing propo­si­tion, it means and Guardi­ola can em­ploy both Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva in ad­vanced po­si­tions, though United will look to ex­ploit the space at the back.

AT­TACK United have so many op­tions Mar­cus Rash­ford has lost his start­ing place and £27m Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan has found op­por­tu­ni­ties ex­tremely lim­ited. For the time be­ing Mour­inho’s front two are set in stone, Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic as the main striker with Wayne Rooney just be­hind him. An­thony Mar­tial has been quite suc­cess­ful on of the left, and rather more sur­pris­ingly Juan Mata has been get­ting a run of games in­stead of Mkhi­taryan

on the right. The Ar­me­nian hasas just been in­jured on in­ter­na­tional duty so United will need to check his fit­ness, and though his di­rect run­ning could be an as­set against City, Mata’s clev­er­nes­sev­er­ness has proved use­ful in the past.

Ser­gio Agüero scored six goals oals in his first three games this sea­son, so there is no doubt los­ing him to sus­pen­sion ion rep­re­sents a blow for City. When ful­lyly fit and on form there is no more lethal fin­isher in Eng­land, and in view of his age, pace and power, he can prob­a­bly run ringsngs round both Rooney and Ibra­ho­movic. In his ab­sence Guardi­ola could pro­mo­tee Nolito to centre-for­ward and bring in Jesúsús Navas on the left, though he his more like­lykely to keep the over­all shape and give Kelechichi Iheana­cho a chance to shine up front. The young Nige­rian did not let any­one downown when called upon last sea­son and Guardi­o­laar­di­ola ap­pears to have seen enough first hand to ap­pre­ci­ate his po­ten­tial. — Guardia­nian

José Mour­inho and Pep Guardi­ola meet on Satur­day for the first time in Manch­ester.

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